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Sydney J. Harris on How to Be a Musical Realist


Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!


“An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”

Sydney J. Harris

Each time we sit down and pick up our instruments, we have the opportunity to craft our life of music. We either practice or we play.

If we work on specific exercises or techniques, we improve over time. And not only that, we also get the daily satisfaction of meaningful work. We overcome obstacles, solve problems, and meet challenges.

“Practice” is the act of working on specific things with the goal of improving them.

We also need “play”.

The goal of “play” is to enjoy the moment and the act of playing. We practice so that we can play. We play to give meaning and context to practice.

One purpose of practice is the daily satisfaction and focus. Another is to facilitate play.

We have limited practice minutes each day. How we use them will determine how satisfying that daily time feels. And it will make play more rewarding over time.

The best way to ensure a joyful life of music, is to practice – to work on specific things, with complete attention. And sometimes just play.

What specific things should we work on? This changes over time. It almost doesn’t matter – so long as we work to improve something specific. And that what we work on is appropriate for our current skill-level.

It could be changing chords, connecting notes, or sight-reading. It could be learning new notes in a piece of music. Or polishing music we already know.

In any given day, the content is less important than the level of attention and the clarity of the task.

What we do today, and how we do it, will pave the path for tomorrow and beyond.








Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 


I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully. Click here for a sample formula.




This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.


-John Andersson

After more than a year as a member, I remain impressed with the Woodshed, song courses, Tuesday quotes, weekly lessons, and the CGS community. Without my membership, I think my enthusiasm for learning classical guitar would have faded long ago. Instead, I am enjoying the process as I make steady progress in my playing.


-Steve Dosh



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